Community management yields positive impacts for coastal fisheries resources and biodiversity conservation

Combining no-take marine reserves with exclusive access by communities to unreserved waters could provide the required incentives for community management to achieve positive impacts. However, few protected areas have been critically evaluated for their impact, which involves applying counterfactual thinking to predict conditions within protected areas if management had never occurred. Here,we use statistical matching to conduct a rigorous impact evaluation of dual management systems on coral reef fishes in Tonga, with communities having both full no-take areas and areas of exclusive fishing rights. No-take areas generally had positive impacts on the species richness, biomass, density, and size of target reef fish,while exclusive access areas were similar to predicted counterfactual conditions. The latter is likely because overall fishing pressure in exclusive access areas might not actually change, although more fish could be exploited by communities with access rights. Our findings suggest that dual management is effective at incentivizing effective community-based no-take areas for biodiversity conservation and resource management.